In a recent Q&A for Time magazine, former First Lady Michelle Obama and Amanda Gorman—the young, Black poet who dazzled the nation when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” during President Joe Biden’s inauguration—talked about a current renaissance in Black art.

Obama and Gorman, 22, discussed how at this moment, the Black experience in America is finding center stage across fields of music, art, and fashion. Many people of Gorman’s age were front-line during the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd.

“Never underestimate the power of art as the language of the people,” Gorman said.

It was a rich discussion about the role art plays in advocating for social justice, especially for Black people in the United States.

And that discussion is also underway in Collin County.

Collin County NAACP presents “Young, Gifted, and Black”

In Collin County, all eyes are on high school juniors and seniors. For Black History Month, the Collin County chapter of the NAACP will put on a talent show called “Young, Gifted, and Black” showcase the area’s talent. It will also promote its efforts to build a more independent Black youth organization. The group will act on its own to tackle racial justice issues in schools and in the community at large.

It’s a chance for local artists across all mediums—painting, spoken word, dance, writing, sculpting, and other forms of expression—to contribute to the renaissance of Black art.

They will be hosting the program virtually on Feb. 28. They are encouraging creative artists who are high school juniors and seniors to submit a five-minute video of themselves performing. The deadline to apply is Feb. 12.

“We are trying to create new Black history champions,” says June Jenkins, the president of the Collin County NAACP.

The local competition

A committee within the county NAACP will select from the pool of applicants to perform at the Feb. 28 show. Jenkins says the winners of the talent show will receive up to thousands of dollars in college scholarship money. The prize money can help with college applications, fees for SAT/ACT testing, or tuition.

On the day of the competition, performances will be broadcast from a centralized location to audiences on Zoom. Contestants who don’t want to show up to that location can also broadcast their performances from home, June said.

People who wish to watch the talent show can register at this website.

NAACP national competition

While the program itself will showcase local talent, Jenkins says NAACP is also encouraging students to enter the national ACT-SO competition

Big names like Kanye West, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Roy Hargrove competed and won the competition in various categories. Contestants can win additional prize money. The categories for the national competition range from STEM to the performing arts.

Even students who do not participate in Collin County’s talent show are encouraged to compete in the ACT-SO program.

A new, bolder youth group

The summer 2020 protests over George Floyd’s death spurred new interest in social justice advocacy nationwide. The same applies in Collin County, Jenkins says.

Now is the time, Jenkins and others say, to teach young people how to take social and racial justice matters into their own hands.

During the talent show, the Collin County NAACP will plug its latest initiative: a new independent youth group with its own student officers. 

“Our goal is to create a group of youths who have a focus on social justice and then having them work in that area, working on things that are important to them,” Jenkins says.

Elders will teach this group how to address a school board and other governing bodies to bring about change. Students will learn to tackle issues like school dress codes that oppressive to people of color.

More about this initiative will be announced during the talent show.

“When you look at Black history, a lot of times you’re looking at all the previous history makers, and people who have done phenomenal work and advocacy in the area of Black history,” Jenkins says. “But this allows us to engage young people and bring them into the fold.”

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas area. His work has appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Denton Record-Chronicle, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the Las Vegas...